A developer is proposing a Starbucks and Chipotle for a lot on East State Street in Athens

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A developer plans to open a Starbucks and a Chipotle on East State Street, which has seen several big restaurant chains move in over the past few years.

The two new restaurants would be located side by side on the same lot, which is about halfway between Walmart and Lowe’s but on the other side of the street, directly across from Advance Auto Parts.

The lot has been occupied by a used car dealer for the past couple of years. There are no longer any cars for sale in the lot and the office was locked during business hours.

Construction on the two restaurants is expected to begin in the spring, with plans to open sometime in September to December, said Christopher Roush, co-owner of RPG Management, the developer behind the project.

RPG is a family owned company based in Racine with a portfolio that includes apartment complexes in southeast Ohio and West Virginia and commercial developments in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.

This lot at 960 E. State Street in Athens, about halfway between Walmart and Lowe's, is the proposed location for a Starbucks and Chipotle.
This lot at 960 E. State Street in Athens, about halfway between Walmart and Lowe’s, is the proposed location for a Starbucks and Chipotle. [David Forster | WOUB]
RPG still needs approvals from the Athens Planning Commission and the City Council. It then plans to purchase the lot and another u-shaped property behind it that surrounds the lot on three sides.

The new Starbucks and Chipotle will offer both dine-in and drive-thru service. Roush said drive-thru service is a relatively new feature for Chipotle and is becoming more common because of the pandemic.

The two restaurant chains are among the largest in the world and both already have locations in Athens. Chipotle is on Court Street one block from the Ohio University campus. Starbucks is just around the corner on West Union Street. Another Starbucks is tucked inside the Kroger supermarket on East State Street, just down the road from where the new Starbucks would be built.

Athens may seem like a small market to support another Starbucks and Chipotle, but the new locations make sense to Jacob Lee Hiler, an assistant professor of marketing at Ohio University with retail expertise.

First, drive-thru service is a convenience the other locations do not and cannot offer because of where they are situated, Hiler said. The pandemic has diverted more customers into drive-thrus and Hiler said this pattern may continue even after the pandemic ebbs and safety restrictions are lifted.

Also, Athens is really two communities when it comes to business, Hiler said. There’s the university community, which the uptown Starbucks and Chipotle serve. These are an easy walk for students and campus employees.

Then there’s the community outside the university. For those people, there’s the challenge of finding a convenient parking space uptown, Hiler said. There are likely many people in the community who would like to go to a Starbucks or Chipotle, he said, but don’t because they don’t want to deal with parking.

“It’s two different groups of consumers that they’re serving,” Hiler said of the uptown locations and those proposed for East State Street.

The new Starbucks and Chipotle would join several other big chain restaurants that have settled on East State State during the past few years. These include Steak ‘n Shake, Tim Hortons, which like Starbucks serves coffee and baked goods, and Qdoba, which like Chipotle is a fast-casual Mexican food format.

Hiler said it’s common for direct competitors to cluster up like this. When people head out to do some shopping, they’re often looking for a commercial hub where they can get multiple things done. And when it comes to eating, they may not have a specific restaurant in mind when they head out and like being able to choose from among multiple options in a central area.